As we prepare for the Black Widow movie and the upcoming Black Widow comic series by Kelly Thompson we might consider dipping our toes in some newly released reprintings of classic Black Widow tales. The latest out this week is Black Widow: Widowmaker which houses three big story arcs, 468 pages, and four shorter tales. It’s a collection more robust than the recently released Black Widow: Welcome to the Game trade paperback, and a book filled with surprises.
This book opens with Paul Cornell and Scott Hanna’s four-part story “Deadly Origin” which also comes with Cornell’s original pitch in the back of the book. It’s a great way to open the book since it reveals something I actually didn’t know about her past while still working for the Russians told via flashback with art by John Paul Leon. In these flashbacks, we learn Natasha took a special serum that keeps her younger for much longer, which would explain why she was 14 in 1940! We also learn Logan trained her a bit alongside Natasha’s ward, Taras Romanov. Taras plays a huge part in this story, living alongside her never aging, though he is a good deal older than her when he takes the formula with her. Throughout the story, Cornell draws the scenes in the present while Leon draws the flashbacks keeping the story moving along and looking great along the way. We also get to see Red Guardian and how he has factored into Black Widow’s life. The story ends up being about Natasha’s many superheroes loves and the jealousy Taras has over the years building towards a master plot. The story wraps up a bit too conveniently — a typical heist movie twist of Natasha having planned for something — but it’s a great way to start the book.
Following this is a five-part story by Marjorie Liu and artist Daniel Acuna called “The Name of the Rose.” This is a beautifully drawn story that reveals Natasha had something implanted in her revealing all the superhero secrets over the years. It ends with a similar convenient twist as the previous story, but damn it looks good telling it. It also has some sentimental moments for Natasha like lost love, and a friendship with another killer like herself.
Next up are three shorter tales that are one to two issues long by Kelly Sue DeConnick/Jamie McKelvie, Joe Ahearne/Brian Ching, and Duane Swierczynski/Manuel Garcia. The first by DeConnick and McKelvie is so short if you blink you might miss it, but has a nice chase and espionage feel. Ahearne and Ching get to tell a story revolving around Black Widow appearing to kiss Iron Man as he rockets into the sky, but we find out he’s actually stuck in the suit and she’s giving a heart attack pill to shut the suit down. Why would she do this? Because they’re being sent into the past to kill the original Avengers, of course! A wacky tale to say the least. Swierczynski and Garcia tell a story about a man who knows things and at first Black Widow and a mysterious woman must fight over him. It’s a three-parter involving a giant Russian heavy Crimson Dynamo, but Black Widow gets it done.
Finally, the title story “Widowmaker” kicks into gear featuring Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and Black Widow teaming up in an espionage tale against Russian supervillains. Perun, Crimson Dynamo, Sputnik, and Fantasma are all involved in a kidnapping of the superheroes. If you’re at all interested in Hawkeye’s alternate ego as Ronin you might be intrigued to learn another wore the suit and had the same name back in Japan. That other person is coming back and really messing with our hero’s days. It’s a rather over-the-top action adventure with a volcano erupting and lots of ninja fights. It pales in comparison to the stories that came before it in this collection.
Wrapping up the book is a “Fear Itself” one-shot by Cullen Bunn and Peter Nguyen which is a basic break in the story to save some kidnapped folks from terrorists. Oh, did I mention Peregrine is in this tale, who if you don’t know, is a purple bird-themed hero?
This book has some nice back matter to enjoy, especially for new readers. There are six pages of encyclopedic pages to recap Black Widow’s back story, a quick one-shot origin story, and a whole bunch of variant cover pinups. If you’re new to the character I recommend reading these pages first although they might spoil some of the stories within.
This is a great way to dive into Black Widow if you’re unfamiliar with the character. Over half of the book is filled with different kinds of adventures Black Widow has gone on, reveals of interesting facts about her backstory, and generally does a good job selling the fact that she’s the best spy in all of comics.